Christmas is not over yet! Every January 6th, in most of the Catholic countries of the world, there’s a celebration called Epiphany, that celebrates the revelation of Christ as a human being to the non-jewish world. In Spain, the Epiphany coincides with the celebration of the Three Wise Men, combining the revelation made to the non-jewish and the arrival of these men that represented the non-jewish world. As time went by the real meaning of the Epiphany was forgotten and it became a synonym of the worship of the Magi.
The Magi were foreigners from the east who followed a star to the place where Jesus was born to bring him gifts (gold, incense and myrrh). Though nowhere says how many of them were, how old were they or even if they were kings, the Catholic Church stablished, based on the numer of gifts, that they were three. The idea of them being Kings comes from the Bible, where it said that the Messiah was worshipped by Kings, and the representation of an old, an adult and a young man was born around the 15th Century, when the artists depict them as three men of different ages as a way to express that people of all ages, races and religions came to worshipped Jesus.
Anyway, that’s just a short explanation of why we have Three Wise Men and why is their visitation celebrated. This is a tradition that’s celebrated differently in every country, but since México was an Spanish Colony in America, this tradition is celebrated here the Spanish way. The celebration begins a few days before, when the kids send letter to the Magi asking for gifts. These letters can be sent by mail, attached to a ballon or by e-mail. (Hey, why not? This is the XXI Century!).
On the night before, they leave their shoe next to the christmas tree (in spain, they leave it next to a window) and leave food and water for the animals as well as wine for the Magi. The next morning the kids find next to their shoe a gift, unless they were naughty, in that case they’ll find a piece of coal. They also wake up to find that the wine is gone, and the animals have eaten -and some times, like they used to do in my house, have spilled- their food.
It’s also a tradition to have Rosca de Reyes (I think it’s safe to translate it to King’s Cake, though it really doesn’t have a translation) with the family and friends. This is an oval ring-shaped kind of cake with dried and candied fruits on top. In Spain is called Roscon de Reyes and has a more rounded shape. But in Mexico we gave it a more indigenous touch, we have it with hot chocolate and we hide inside the Rosca one plastic (it used to be ceramic) Baby Jesus that’s both a blessing and a punishment. The person who finds will be blessed the whole year and will have good luck, but will also be in charge of the Candelaria celebration on February 2nd, and will have to cook the Tamales and Atole. The Candelaria Day is the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the temple, is the day the Nativity Scene is put away and the Christmas celebrations are over.
So, what will you ask for this Dia de Reyes? Have you written your letter yet?
[photos courtesy of zerethv, Belis@rio and El mundo de Laura/Flickr]